UConn’s Board of Trustees has endorsed Connecticut Water Co. as the University’s preferred alternative among three options reviewed to supplement long-term water needs of the campus and Storrs area.
Trustees voted Wednesday to endorse the CWC proposal as their top choice as part of approving a Record of Decision, a formal document required under the state-mandated process of developing an Environmental Impact Evaluation.
The document includes the University’s responses to regulators and interested parties who asked questions and provided comments during the review process. It now goes to the state Office of Policy and Management for review.
The CWC’s approach envisions extending its water supply southward to UConn by building a five-mile pipeline from Tolland to Storrs. As part of their approval of the Record of Decision, UConn trustees on Wednesday also identified Windham Water Works as a backup option.
The third proposal, submitted by the Metropolitan District Commission, is no longer under consideration.
UConn has been working through Connecticut’s environmental review process since fall 2011 to evaluate options capable of providing up to 2.2 million gallons of water daily, supplementing UConn’s supply and supporting long-term growth on campus and in the Storrs area of Mansfield.
UConn officials say the CWC option is the most environmentally sound and least costly of the three options, and that it can be executed more quickly than the others.
“From the beginning of this process, UConn has been committed to identifying a water solution that would be both environmentally sound and fiscally responsible,” says Thomas Callahan, UConn associate vice president for infrastructure planning and strategic project management.
CWC already has the technical, managerial, and financial capability to undertake a project of this scope and accommodate the future demands of a growing UConn campus and greater Mansfield community – including facilities associated with the Tech Park and initiatives integral to Next Generation Connecticut.
“We believe the CWC option offers the best fit for our needs, and it recognizes UConn’s commitment to act in the best long-term interest of the campus, its neighbors, and the region,” says Callahan.
Specifically, some of the considerations that made the CWC option the preferred option in the Record of Decision include:
- The five-mile pipeline from Tolland to Storrs is the shortest among those evaluated, is the most consistent with the State Plan of Development and Conservation, and provides the best opportunity to mitigate the possibility of unwanted development along the route.
- Connecticut Water says it will pay the $21 million in capital costs necessary to extend the pipeline and other improvements, whereas the other two options would have required UConn to provide tens of millions of dollars to fund that work.
- CWC would charge only for the water that UConn takes, without requiring the University to enter into a “take or pay” contract that would have charged for a contracted amount whether it was used or not.
- Although its water rates would require state regulators’ approval, CWC expects to maintain rates at their current level for off-campus customers currently on UConn’s water system; and charge 60 percent of its standard government authority rate to UConn, similar to an arrangement it has at Bradley International Airport.
- CWC can phase in the improvements, and anticipates being able to provide water as soon as 18 months after receiving all necessary permits.
The Record of Decision and the Environmental Impact Evaluation that it accompanies will undergo more scrutiny as part of a process outlined in the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act. If the Office of Policy and Management is satisfied with the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Evaluation and its accompanying Record of Decision, the project can proceed.
The University worked in collaboration with Mansfield officials as they sought to identify and secure a reliable water source to meet the needs of the campus and surrounding area for the next several decades.
Conservation efforts, public awareness, and other initiatives – such as the newly opened water reclamation plant – have helped UConn save significant amounts of water. Water use on campus is actually lower now than it was a decade ago – despite the area’s growth in population and infrastructure.